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Is it correct to say "I feel painful" to mean "I feel pain"?

Please note that I mean only those cases, in which the phrase is a complete sentence. There should be no words after the last word in each quote (like in "I feel painful pulses in my head", "I feel painful burning sensations in my stomach", etc.)

If it's correct, what is the slight difference in meaning there?

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~brilliant, I changed meaning to to mean. Also, it really is incorrect to have a period in those quotes, but I retained them due to the way you phrased your question. Without the periods, both would still be taken as full sentences. They would only be considered as parts of a bigger sentence if followed by ellipses: "I feel painful...", "I feel pain..." – Jimi Oke Mar 9 '11 at 23:53
@Jimi Oke: "it really is incorrect to have a period in those quotes" - Why is it incorrect? – brilliant Mar 9 '11 at 23:55
Because the final period within a pair of quotes terminates the entire sentence. If not, the quoted text should terminate with a comma. Thus, your title should be: (with comma overload) Is it correct to say, "I feel painful," to mean, "I feel pain"? or (without comma overload) Is it correct to say "I feel painful" to mean "I feel pain"? And you could always explain the specific usage within the body of question, e.g. no words after the last word in each quote, and so on. – Jimi Oke Mar 10 '11 at 0:04
@brilliant: You're welcome. Here are a couple links: Purdue OWL, Quotation Marks. In American English, the comma and period always goes within the quotation marks, regardless of logic. In British English, however, this is not the case. More on that here. Also, for consistency's sake, as per my previous comment, I think you should just remove the comma after "I feel painful," – Jimi Oke Mar 10 '11 at 5:23
@brilliant: As for AAT's No, it is not correct English to say "I feel painful.", strictly speaking, there ought to be a comma after say. Otherwise, the punctuation is perfectly correct, as the period terminates the entire sentence. A British/International English writer, however, may be inclined to place the period after the quotation mark, not before, as in: No, it is not correct English to say "I feel painful". But I doubt such a writer would if they placed a comma after say: No, it is not correct English to say, "I feel painful." – Jimi Oke Mar 10 '11 at 5:33
up vote 10 down vote accepted

No, it is not correct English to say "I feel painful."

You can say "I feel pain", or "I am in pain", because 'pain' is a noun, but "painful" is an adjective so you would need to use it qualify something else (as in your "I feel painful sensations" example).

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@AAT: Thank you for your answer. You have confirmed my suspicions. "... but "painful" is an adjective so you would need to use..." - Is having an adjective really a valid basis for deeming "I am <adjective>." phrases as wrong? Look: "I feel happy", "I feel sick", "I feel hungry" - as far as I know, all these phrases are correct, but they all contain adjectives. – brilliant Mar 10 '11 at 0:20
@brilliant: The reason painful is wrong is not because it is an adjective, but because of the meaning of painful. Something that is painful is the cause of pain: a painful injury, a painful memory, a painful needle, but not a "painful person" or "painful dog" (to mean that they have pain). – Kosmonaut Mar 10 '11 at 0:35
@brilliant: It's just not true though. "I feel hopeful" = fine. "I feel joyful" = fine. Thankful, playful, merciful, forgetful... also fine. – Kosmonaut Mar 10 '11 at 2:18
@brilliant: What is the purpose of making a "rule" like that? There is no syntactic restriction that makes "I feel painful" wrong. It is just wrong because of the meaning of painful; it sounds like you are saying that you feel like you cause pain. If there is any rule at play here, it is: "use the word that means the thing you want it to mean". – Kosmonaut Mar 10 '11 at 14:05
@Kosmonaut: (3) "If there is any rule at play here, it is: "use the word that means the thing you want it to mean" - If I try to follow this logic I may get into the same trap again: I know that to say "My painful arm" is correct and that that would mean "My arm feels pain", thus, I would think, since it's okay to say "I feel pain" (meaning that it is me who is feeling pain), then it must also be okay to say "I feel painful", and the meaning (as I would think) would still be the same as in case with "painful arm". – brilliant Mar 10 '11 at 14:33

I apologize in advance for

AAT is right; Grammatically, the phrase "I feel painful" is incorrect. You cannot use an adjective as a modifier for feel. However, it is perfectly acceptable to, instead of using the qualifier AAT suggested ("I feel painful sensations"), you may also opt to use an object: I feel pain.

So your options are as follows (using I feel __ as the template):

  • use a noun to qualify the adjective painful (I feel painful bites)
  • use a noun as a direct object to enhance the verb feel (I feel pain)
  • use an adverb to enhance the verb feel (I feel painfully sick)

Editorial note: When a sentence gets cloudy like this (it's bound to happen, ESPECIALLY in English), your best bet is to try to find a suitable synonym, preferably one that is interchangeable and not cluttered with subtle connotations. (instead of uncomfortable to express pain, perhaps excruciating will do instead) Worst case scenario, you're better off rebuilding the whole sentence. It happens.

Hope this helps

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If you feel pain you hurt. When, say, getting over a case of the flu one might say "I hurt all over." If you sprain your ankle you'd say "my ankle hurts".

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